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An active Denmark in the global engine room

The minister for Foreign Affairs Martin Lidegaard and the Minister for Trade and Development Cooperation Mogens Jensen have formulated a new vision for Danish foreign policy.

/By Minister for Foreign Affairs Martin Lidegaard and Minister for Trade and Development Cooperation Mogens Jensen

We conduct foreign policy in a world undergoing rapid change. Over the coming twenty years the global economy will double in size. The world’s total population will grow from 7 to 9 billion people. The global middleclass will grow by 3 billion people and millions will work their way out of extreme poverty. In other words, a major shift will occur in the fundamental pillars that today’s foreign policy rests upon. Furthermore, the number of deep and complex crises currently facing the world is unprecedented. In December 2013 none of us would have believed that we would spend so much time on the Ukraine, ISIL and Ebola – just to mention a few of the biggest international challenges right now.

We have therefore formulated a range of new visions for Denmark’s foreign policy which we are presenting today. The efforts in regions of origin, the engagement in fragile states, cooperation between Danish authorities and authorities abroad as well as value-based politics are the central elements. And the task will be to organise Danish foreign policy, so that we also in the future have the tools to strengthen our security, increase our prosperity and promote our values - for our own benefit and for contributing to a better world.

Our vision paper is based on three months of public debate as well as on the constantly changing world that Denmark is a part of. As mentioned, we are facing significant economic, social and demographic changes in the world in the years to come. 700 million people have already emerged out of extreme poverty and more will follow. Great strides have also been made in other areas of the UN MDGs. Growth will continue to change the global political and economic power structures, increase the pressure on our planet’s natural resources and exacerbate the challenges of global warming.

These major challenges as well as the public debate that we have conducted in the last three months constitute the backdrop of our new foreign policy visions. It has been an exciting debate with participants ranging from high school students through bloggers and researchers and posts via the hashtag #dkiverden. We are realistic as to how broad our reach has been, but in our view it has been a great and lively debate. And it is important that the debate continues.

New world – new tools

In our vision paper we define three crucial indicators for Denmark’s foreign policy interests:

1) Security; which is about protecting Denmark and Danish interests against threats in a wide sense. This is first and foremost our territorial integrity, but also threats such as conflicts and unrest outside Denmark’s borders, terrorism, cyber-attacks etc.  This affects the respective countries and regions and us.
2) Prosperity; which is about using our foreign policy to create progress and economic growth that benefits Danish businesses, wage-earners and Danish society at large. But it is also about creating the right frame conditions for sustainable development and growth in developing countries, so they can work their way out of poverty. 
3) Values; which are about promoting the fundamental values that Danish society is built upon and assuming global responsibility for creating a better world through an active development policy. First and foremost this concerns our efforts for human rights, democracy, the fight against poverty, equality, sustainable development and an international legal order.

It is within these areas that we shall seek to influence the development in the world around us.  Our means is a proactive foreign policy. And the fundamental principle is this: all instruments must work together to enhance our foreign policy interests.

For long, Denmark has played an engaged and constructive role in the world. We have done so because of our close and strong alliances and partnerships – bilaterally and multilaterally. For example the EU, NATO, the UN, the US and the Nordic partnership. This is an engagement that we must and will continue. As a small country, our influence is best achieved through committed international cooperation based on common rules and institutions.

Cooperation between Danish authorities and authorities abroad (“Authority to authority cooperation“) will be a central tool in our bilateral foreign policy. It is about using Danish competences and experience better in our cooperation with other countries, not least the emerging economies. Other countries see our solutions and social model as a role model. And through concrete cooperation between Danish authorities and authorities abroad on for instance sustainable growth, healthcare, welfare, food and education, we can influence society models and living conditions when emerging economies have to make difficult strategic choices. 

As an example we have improved food security and quality through a milk-counselling center in China and paved the way for Danish companies in South Africa through our cooperation with South Africa on wind technology. We can influence the world at the same time as we are selling our own knowledge and goods. Simultaneously, through authority to authority cooperation, we can strengthen our security, increase our prosperity and promote our values. It is therefore an area of high priority for the government and we will soon send the first growth counsellors out into the world. In that way we can access the engine room of key countries and partners.

Our security, prosperity and values
Denmark cannot and should not prioritize all issues and regions equally. We must focus our efforts where it matters the most and where we can make the biggest difference.

To enhance our security we will strengthen the engagement in the eastern neighbourhood and in the Artic. This is because the development in these regions has the greatest influence on our interests. We will also promote the principle that security threats must be countered with the broadest possible range of instruments, and we will to an even greater extent merge our diplomatic, developmental, humanitarian, economic and military engagements in this effort. We will prioritize an active and comprehensive approach to fragile states, including long-term stabilization efforts in few, carefully prioritized states.

To advance our prosperity the Ministry of Foreign Affairs must contribute more to growth and employment in Denmark. Among others this is to be achieved through economic diplomacy and the commercial potentials of authority to authority cooperation. Moreover, we must use the interplay between our development assistance and the private sector. There is a rising demand in developing countries for products and technology solutions which Danish companies can deliver. And we must keep working for the growth agenda to be given high priority in the EU in the years to come.

Another tool to promote our values is an active development policy, where we are assuming a global responsibility for creating a better and more free, equal and socially responsible world. In the multilateral organisations we must work actively for the protection and promotion of human rights. In bilateral cooperation we must constantly consider how to best achieve our goals. We must dare to take the critical dialogue, but we must also be pragmatic. In the coming years, Denmark should continue to have the world’s best development assistance and a high level of aid. We must also maintain a strong green profile, with focus on green transition, energy and climate change.

It is decisive for us that Denmark’s foreign policy is broadly anchored in Danish society and builds on a shared understanding and a broad cooperation with the Parliament, the population, civil society, the business community and academia. And that the Danish business community and civil society in the future are an even bigger part of the foreign policy.

What we want is in other words a foreign policy that reflects our strong and deep-rooted democracy. Our history, our democracy and our social model are our central asset in the world. Let us use it!